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By Your Side evaluation

By Your Side provides holistic support for separated asylum seekers, refugee and migrant young people aged 14 to 21. The service delivers critical support across London to young people that have no support from social care and high levels of need.

Number of pages:

47 pages

Date published:

What is By Your Side?

By Your Side provides holistic support for separated asylum seekers, refugee and migrant young people aged 14 to 21. The service delivers critical support across London to young people that have no support from social care and high levels of need.

The service model has four key elements:

  • Through holistic casework, the team works to assist with the asylum and immigration process and help young people to access a range of their entitlements and with other practical needs. The service also aims to ensure that young people’s voices are heard to influence decisions, systems and wider policy change.

'When I came here, I had problem with age assessment; for two years, they don’t accept my age. They kept changing my social worker, they kept changing my date of birth, but [workers], they helped me a lot – now they accept my age and I’ve got my answer from Home Office. – Young Person 

  • A direct referral route to The Children’s Society’s therapeutic service to work with the young people who are ready to engage in one-to-one therapy. The service works with children and young people on a long-term basis, which is essential for those with complex trauma.

We talked about my situation, my problems, about everything in my past. She is a nice lady and she’s really helped me.

  • Through the support of circa 20 volunteers, a befriending scheme for more vulnerable and isolated young people. These young people are matched with a volunteer befriender who can support them to develop life skills, pursue interests, and develop local connections in their community.

'We would meet at lunchtime so he could have something to eat and he was able to be a young person again. We just went to interesting exhibitions and fun music things. It gives them the chance to not have to worry about where they might get their next meal or what they might do tomorrow.' – Volunteer

  • Fortnightly group and social activities for service users aged 16-21 to improve their emotional and mental wellbeing. These sessions aim to develop self-esteem and confidence and reduce isolation, by helping them build a peer-support network with other young people who have been through similar experiences.

It’s just a chance to not have to think about everything that’s going on, to just be a teenager, and to be silly with other teenagers.

Building hope

Impact of By Your Side

Between October 2018 and the end of September 2020, the service supported 47 young people, and provided Advice, Information and Guidance (AIG) to a further 76, predominantly through the Croydon College drop-in.

The service has built hope in the lives of young people who would have otherwise been alone, and living in circumstances detrimental to their wellbeing. By Your Side has built hope for young people through:

  • Finding solutions to overcome the barriers and challenges young people face
  • Improving outcomes for young people
  • Offering befrienders to young people
  • Delivering a youth group
two young men laughing standing over a table football

What we achieved

They have given me hope for the future I am grateful all the time.

The service has improved outcomes for young people, and there were numerous examples given of how workers have worked holistically with young people to support them to find solutions to a range of barriers and challenges. Volunteer befrienders have built young people’s support networks and offered valuable support to caseworkers. They have supported young people to integrate into their new lives in London; encouraged and facilitated young people getting involved in positive activities; and had a positive impact on feelings of isolation, self-esteem and confidence. The youth group has offered the opportunity to socialise with other young people, and to escape from the everyday stresses and issues related to being a refugee and asylum seeking young person.

They’ve found me a place to stay, given me means to feed myself. I’m now living my life, I’m very happy.

At the point of reporting there were 17 active volunteers working with 19 young people from the By Your Side service. Since October 2018, volunteers have contributed 790 hours as befrienders to the service, including virtual and face to face befriending, and attending appointments with the young person. Volunteers have seen increased levels of life satisfaction and improved mental health and wellbeing through their role as a befriender. They have developed skills and confidence, and have gained a new perspective on life.

'They are very grounded and positive in their outlook. They spend a lot of energy in building their lives up, and won’t let the outcome of the Home Office decision be the driving factor in their lives. They live their lives for themselves and their future. They teach me a lot all the time.' – Volunteer

Partners highlighted the impact of the service on capacity in the sector, as well as in their organisations. The service has been responsible for upskilling other professionals and changing practice, as well as making systemic change through contributing to the work of central teams. By Your Side workers have been able to facilitate positive relationships between young people and other professionals, such as therapists or solicitors, and have added evidence to asylum and age dispute cases, thus increasing the likelihood of a positive outcome. Information sharing between By Your Side workers and other professionals has had a positive impact on both safety planning and engagement with young people, as well as understanding of capacity in the sector.

'They can ask [worker] questions and she can communicate to me – it makes me more accessible to them – they feel more engaged with the case than they otherwise would do and it will lead to a more successful outcome.' – Partner

Download the full report

If you'd like more information, read the full report or download the executive summary here.